The 26th Session of the Botswana – Namibia Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security (JPC) Meeting gets under way in the tourist town of Kasane this week - October 24th-26th – amidst claims that there is a fresh diplomatic tiff between the two countries. Namibian newspaper – Confidente – reported on Friday that a new border dispute has broken out between the two countries. “INTERNATIONAL Relations and Cooperation Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, has exclusively revealed to Confidente that the country had recently been involved in a “diplomatic dispute” with Botswana, after the neighbouring country’s soldiers arrested members of Namibia’s elite anti-poaching unit,” said the newspaper. Last year the Namibian – a daily newspaper – reported in a story entitled – ‘Deadly borders ... 30 Namibians killed through Botswana's shoot-to-kill policy’ that: “Over the past two decades, 30 Namibians and at least 22 Zimbabweans have been killed in Botswana anti-poaching operations - but Namibian community and rights' groups claim the figure could be much higher. They have urged Botswana to exercise restraint when dealing with poachers. Anti-poaching operations have also increased border tensions between Botswana and Namibia, amid claims that the BDF has violated Namibia's sovereignty. The tension is palpable in Kanbula and other smaller settlements in the Chobe region, as BDF raids are frequent.” “The Botswana government values wildlife more than human life,” the paper further quoted John Ntemwa, leader of the Zambezi Youth Forum based at Katima Mulilo which claims to monitor and catalogue BDF killings in the region.
He further told the paper: “We are worried that most of the people who have been killed were not poachers, but fishermen,” Ntemwa said. “More than 30 lives have been lost since independence - this cannot be allowed to continue.” Nandi-Ndaitwah said at the time that government had initiated talks in May 2014 with Botswana, which gave the assurance that it would no longer kill suspected Namibian poachers. Since then, there had been no deaths, she said. She added that “in Namibia, we arrest - we do not shoot to kill”. When asked about the latest tension, the ministry of defence spokesperson Samma Tabudi denied any knowledge of the developments. “I can’t confirm anything. I have not seen that publication or been made aware of such developments,” she said. It is expected that this issue which has potential of breaking down relations will dominate discussion of the Commission’s meeting. The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi who has been in South Korea will be leading Botswana’s delegation. Botswana has adopted a tough stance against poaching which has seen it pursuing the shoot-to-kill policy that has divided opinion among close watchers. Botswana has also invested heavily on anti-poaching resources including setting up an intelligence unit and buying helicopters and ammunition to ensure that it gives no room to poachers.